Maya Forstater’s transgender views should be ‘tolerated in society’, judge rules Posted June 10th 2021
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The views of a woman who lost her job after claiming people cannot change their biological sex should be “tolerated in a pluralist society”, a High Court judge has ruled. © Barney Cokeliss Undated handout photo of Maya Forstater who lost her job after claiming people cannot change their biological sex insists her views are a “material reality”, an employment appeal tribunal has heard. Forstater’s contract was not renewed in March 2019 after she posted tweets opposing government proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to identify as the opposite sex. Issue date: Tuesday April 27, 2021.
Maya Forstater’s contract was not renewed in March 2019 after she posted tweets opposing government proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to identify as the opposite sex.
On Thursday, Ms Forstater, who worked as a tax expert at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), won her appeal against an employment tribunal, a judgment which the international think tank described as “a step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all”.
Mr Justice Choudhury said the original tribunal had “erred in law”, but added: “This judgment does not mean that those with gender-critical beliefs can ‘misgender’ trans persons with impunity.” © Provided by PA Media Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling came out in support of Ms Forstater (Ian West/PA)
Finding in favour of Ms Forstater, the High Court judge said her views “may well be profoundly offensive and even distressing”, but said they “must be tolerated in a pluralist society”.
Mr Justice Choudhury acknowledged “some trans persons will be disappointed by this judgment”.
Ms Forstater originally took her case to an employment tribunal on the grounds that her dismissal constituted discrimination against her beliefs.
But employment judge James Tayler previously dismissed her claim, saying her views are “absolutist in her view of sex”.
During the employment appeal tribunal in April, she reiterated her views that biological sex is “real, important, immutable, and not to be conflated with gender identity”.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling previously came out in support of the claimant, tweeting: “Live your best life in peace and security.
“But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?”
In the judgment handed down on Thursday, Mr Justice Choudhury said: “We do not in any way seek to ignore or downplay the difficulties faced by trans persons seeking merely to live their lives peacefully in the gender with which they identify, irrespective of their natal sex.
“The regrettable reality for many trans persons, however, is that something which most take for granted – the sense of self and autonomy in identity – is under constant challenge and attack.
“This case, however, is not about whether greater protection ought to be afforded to trans persons.
“This appeal is about the much narrower issue of whether the claimant’s belief as to the immutability of sex is one that amounts to a philosophical belief under section 10 of the Equality Act 2010.
“We have come to the conclusion that it does.”
The High Court judge continued: “The claimant’s belief might well be considered offensive and abhorrent to some, but the accepted evidence before the Tribunal was that she believed that it is not ‘incompatible to recognise that human beings cannot change sex whilst also protecting the human rights of people who identify as transgender’.
“That is not, on any view, a statement of a belief that seeks to destroy the rights of trans persons.
“It is a belief that might in some circumstances cause offence to trans persons, but the potential for offence cannot be a reason to exclude a belief from protection altogether.”
Commenting on the judgment, executive vice president of CGD Amanda Glassman said: “The decision is disappointing and surprising because we believe Judge Tayler got it right when he found this type of offensive speech causes harm to trans people, and therefore could not be protected under the Equality Act.
“Today’s decision is a step backwards for inclusivity and equality for all.
“We’re currently considering the various paths forward with our lawyers.”
Also reacting to the ruling, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Some may see the beliefs of others as questionable or controversial, but people must be free to hold them.
“This is why this case is so important.
“It provides clarity that people are free to hold their beliefs and must not be discriminated against because of them even if others might find their beliefs offensive.
“There is a difference between holding a belief and how it is expressed.
“We are all responsible for what we say and do.”
Comment Women like Maya Forstater are the driving force behind intolerant mind destroying political correctness so it is to bad when it turns around and bites them. Why should her kind have freedom of speech when so many of us do not.
The most notable thing about modern women and transsexuals is their obsession with female gender. It is very interesting and most significant in these peculiar and dangerous times. The two groups appear to be in serious competition on the matter. It is almost funny. But why has being female become so important and contentious ? What does empowerment mean ?
What does it mean to be female. Why does the London Gender Identity Clinic ask patients why they want to be women rather than why they don’t want to be men ? Why don’t they ask them what they think being a man or woman involves or how it is defined these days.? Why don’t they ask about how having babies links to that definition – in this era of falling white birth rates and stark career empowerment obsession ?
It seems the right to free speech is highly selective, favouring PC women. Why is it O.K to label men as suffering from ‘toxic masculinity and a proclivity toward ‘mansplaining’ ?
There appears to be no official effort to explain why so many boys and men want to appear as the opposite sex. My book ‘Man, Maid, Woman’ offers a very unacceptable explanation based on logic. Women’s groups and their slavish minions of both genders do not want to take responsibility , only to declaim against transsexuals. The one parent family link is heresy against feminism.
This man fought for his country in two armed services. It is such a privilege being a white man in today’s inclusive diverse society.
Image by Robert Cook / Appledene Photographics August 2020.
Trans female MMA fighter lashes out at Joe Rogan, says he should stop talking about transgender athletes – Posted June 9th 2021
A transgender female athlete said that Joe Rogan should stop talking about the contentious issue of transgender people competing in sports. Fearless with Jason Whitlock
Fallon Fox retired from fighting professionally in 2014, but regularly speaks out in defense of transgender athletes. Fox was born a biological male.
The 45-year-old spoke out against Rogan and other critics of transgender athletes in an interview with ET Canada.
“A lot of prominent people were talking about a bunch of horrible things. The Joe Rogans, the Ronda Rouseys, the Dana Whites of the world,” said Fox.
“From what they said about me in the past, I could have just crawled up into a ball and given up. I could have just stopped competing, but I didn’t,” Fox explained. “I kept competing and I kept talking about this issue and I’m going to continue to do it.”
Fox went on to opine that Rogan, one of the most successful podcasters in history, should simply stop talking about transgender athletes.
“No, he shouldn’t speak, especially on this issue that’s so important to transgender people and transgender people’s lives,” Fox asserted. “Just like coronavirus is important to people’s lives. He just brings up these things and just makes them up.”
Fox argued against Rogan’s claim that biological males had an advantage over women because of their natural bone density differences.
“African-American women have more dense bones than Caucasian women do. I don’t see any one saying that we shouldn’t have African-American women competing against cisgender women,” Fox explained.
“I think it’s just bogus for them to even bring up bone density in the first place,” Fox concluded. “Things like that that people just bring out of thin air and just say our true, that [is what] we’re fighting against.”
Fox went on to complain that Rogan and others like him don’t appreciate her importance to the world of sports.
Rogan has been criticized by many on the left for arguing against the practice of hormone therapy for young children who may exhibit some gender confusion.
“There’s no reason to give kids hormones,” said Rogan on his podcast in 2019.
“People don’t know who they are, a 7-year-old,” he continued, “people don’t even give their 7 year-old phones, you don’t let them vote, you’re gonna let them decide what sex they’re gonna be for the rest of their life?”
‘We are still the unseen’: The horrific discrimination faced by transgender people of colour Posted June 1st 2021
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On 14 June, during a summer of expansive nationwide protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, an estimated 15,000 people gathered in Brooklyn, New York, for pride-month-converged”>Brooklyn Liberation, a rally for Black trans lives.
It’s believed to be the largest ever gathering of its kind, and it was a reminder about the many ways the fight for Black and trans justice are bound together historically, particularly when it comes to pushing back against police violence. One of the first people killed by police after Mr Floyd was Tony McDade, a 38-year-old Black transgender man, in Florida.
Now, a year on from George Floyd’s murder, activists and organisers say there’s a new energy around making the criminal justice system a more just place for trans people.
Still, they warn there’s a long way to go before trans lives, subject to both universal and extremely specific forms of discrimination and violence, truly matter to police and society at large.
The current criminal justice landscape for trans people is dire. They’re nearly four times more likely to experience police violence than cisgender people, while more than 20 per cent of Black trans women will be incarcerated at one point their life, a percentage far higher than that of the general population.
As of 2019, only 10 of the 25 biggest police departments included gender identity language in their non-discrimination policies, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). More than half of trans people the NCTE surveyed said they were harassed or abused when they interacted with law enforcement, and more than half also reported they feel uncomfortable calling the police for help. This fear of law enforcement persists, even as, broadly speaking, 2020 was the deadliest year ever for trans people, with more than 30 being murdered, especially trans women of colour.
As with most societal problems, anti-trans police violence becomes particularly acute against people of colour, who face all the stereotypes and biases any other person of colour would in addition to anti-trans bias.
“Transgender people of colour are much more likely to face this kind of harassment and outright violence from white police officers than other people,” Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen of the NCTE told The Independent. “They’re much more likely to be stopped. They’re much more likely, especially Black trans women, are so much likely to be suspected of doing sex work.”
Sex work, in particular, is the axis on which huge amounts of police violence towards trans people turns. Because of pervasive interpersonal, housing, and employment discrimination, many trans people do engage in sex work to survive—more than 10 per cent, according to the US Transgender Survey—yet police often stop trans people on the assumption they’re all engaged in sex work. Meanwhile, laws in numerous states, frequently abused to target trans people, allow police to bring criminal charges against people carrying too many condoms, even though regular condom use is a key way to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which also disproportionately affects trans people.
“Most people do not realise the pervasive issue of sexual assault by police officers that is way higher for trans women, especially Black and Latinx women, we hear horror stories of coerced sex, where police officers stop a trans person and say, ‘Give me what I want and I won’t arrest you,’” Mr Heng-Lehtinen said. “The other word for that is sexual assault.”
In some states, particularly in the South, trans people suspected of being sex workers can be hit with charges of “crimes against nature”, condemning them to life on the sex offender list even if they engaged in a consensual encounter.
This set of conditions – a formal economy where trans people are unwanted, and a legal system that punishes them for finding work in the informal or black market world – creates an impossible cycle of recidivism for many trans people in the justice system.
“You’re put in the revolving door of the prison-industrial complex. Then you have even more limited options when it comes to surviving,” said Aria Sa’id, a former sex worker and co-founder of San Francisco’s Transgender District neighbourhood, the world’s first legally recognised trans district. “After you’ve been incarcerated for a certain number of times, you’re no longer able to access traditional forms of employment. No one hires you. No one wants you to live in their neighbourhood.”
The problems aren’t limited to street-level contact with police, though; they’re built into the broader criminal justice system itself. Police reports frequently misgender and “dead name” trans people, while police in many jurisdictions are allowed to strip-search trans people to determine their gender. Some states even recognise a “trans panic defence”, a justification that uses one’s shock or emotion at finding out that someone is trans to explain violence against them.
Perhaps most pressing, according to trans justice advocates, is what happens inside of prisons. Trans people are frequently misgendered, or put in solitary confinement to protect them from other inmates.
“Roughly four in 10 incarcerated Black trans people have been sexually abused,” according to Scott Greenberg, from the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, a bail fund and advocacy group. “That’s as often by guards as other inmates, which is extraordinarily high.”
As a result of the deep interrelation between societal discrimination, race, policing, and sexuality – it is only a recent reform that being gay or even cross-dressing is not explicitly illegal – the histories of the trans civil rights movement and anti-police brutality work are frequently related, if not simultaneous. After police violently raided New York City’s Stonewall Inn, a popular gay gathering place, in 1969, trans and nonbinary people of colour led protests and riots against police brutality, as well as the first Pride march a year later.
Part of the impetus behind establishing San Francisco’s trans district was to preserve the history of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots of 1966, one of the first recorded transgender riots in history, in response to frequent police mistreatment in the Tenderloin neighbourhood, known then as the city’s “gay ghetto”.
Carrying on that legacy, two of the three Black Lives Matter founders identify as queer, and numerous leaders in racial justice protests across the US after George Floyd’s murder were LGBT+ people of colour.
After centuries of Americans being totally unaware of or outright hostile to trans people, and decades of LGBT+ criminal justice issues being relegated to the sidelines of larger civil rights movements, Mr Floyd’s murder may have finally made the mainstream culture see the intersectional nature of these issues, according to activists.
“I think the murder of George Floyd in particular gave activists, with the support of the broader public, we were able to push policy pieces and initiatives that I just don’t think would’ve been successful five to 10 years ago, when we were seeing the murders of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown. The broader American public did not want to have that nuanced understanding,” Ms Said, from San Francisco’s Trans District, said, pointing to initiatives like the city’s emergency Covid funds directed to LGBT+ people , which passed well before national stimulus cheques arrived.
“It’s unfortunate that so many people have had to be murdered in that way for more people to understand.”
Still, despite renewed national vigour around civil rights organisers, there has been an equally potent campaign against trans people in the same institutions they’re trying to reform. Across the country, Republican legislatures have introduced numerous bills aiming to prevent trans people and children from fully accessing healthcare, sports, and other areas.
“I’m speaking to you from a red state,” said Collette Carter, interim director of Breakout, a group working to end “the criminalisation of LGBTQ youth” in New Orleans, Louisiana, a state considering a host of anti-trans bills this legislative session. “I wish there was a better understanding, especially when it comes to LGBTQ Black people and communities of colour. We are still the unseen.”
During George Floyd protests last summer, Ms Carter says local police still tear gassed and mass-arrested overwhelmingly peaceful LGBT+ protesters, even though New Orleans has been under federal supervision for its police practices since a 2012 consent decree with the Department of Justice.
“Our folks were teargassed, physically engaged with with the police,” she said. “There wasn’t a broken window. Not a Target scratched. Not for the level of teargas and bulls*** they were pulling, in a consent decree city.”
Stopping this sort of discrimination requires drastic changes to culture, housing, employment, and policing all at once, experts say, since they all combine to yield the untenable present for trans people.
“At the end of the day, as long as there are high levels of discrimination across all these different areas of society, as long as families are discriminating against trans people, as long as they’re going to be discriminated in employment, you’re going to see high representation of trans people in the criminal legal system,” Greenberg, from the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, said. “The structural effects of marginalisation aren’t going to be dramatically changed by people in power passing a piece of legislation.”
But these challenges haven’t stopped LGBT+ organisers from pushing for a world where trans people are safe from police violence and discrimination in the criminal justice system.
“We’re here,” Ms Carter said, “We’re proud. And we’re fighting.”
Just like they always have been.
Transgender woman weightlifter Laurel Hubbard in Olympics is ‘like a bad joke’ to biological female athletes, competitor complains Posted June 1st 2021
Transgender woman weightlifter Laurel Hubbard competing in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games is “like a bad joke” to biological female athletes, a rival weightlifter told Inside the Games. POLL: What scares you the most?
What are the details?
“First off, I would like to stress that I fully support the transgender community, and that what I’m about to say doesn’t come from a place of rejection of this athlete’s identity,” weightlifter Anna Van Bellinghen of Belgium told the sports website.
But she soon added that “anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes,” Inside the Games said.
Van Bellinghen, 27, is looking to qualify in the same weight category as New Zealand’s Hubbard — the over-87-kilogram super-heavyweights — and is directly affected by the presence of Hubbard, who’s set to become the first openly transgender athlete to qualify for the Olympics in any sport, the website reported.
Hubbard, 43 — a biological male who identifies as female and has competed against women for several years — began transitioning to female at age 35.
It would seem Van Bellinghen’s complaints about Hubbard go against the wishes of the powers that be, who allegedly want those who disagree with Hubbard’s presence to be quiet about their concerns — but she went for the jugular anyway.
Van Bellinghen pointed out to Inside the Games that it’s widely known athletes can retain the benefit of taking steroids even years earlier — so therefore “why is it still a question whether two decades, from puberty to the age of 35, with the hormonal system of a man also would give an advantage [in competing against women]? I understand that for sports authorities nothing is as simple as following your common sense, and that there are a lot of impracticalities when studying such a rare phenomenon, but for athletes the whole thing feels like a bad joke.”
She added to the sports website that Hubbard’s presence means “life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless. Of course, this debate is taking place in a broader context of discrimination against transgender people, and that is why the question is never free of ideology. However, the extreme nature of this particular situation really demonstrates the need to set up a stricter legal framework for transgender inclusion in sports, and especially elite sports. Because I do believe that everyone should have access to sports, but not at the expense of others.”
Hubbard made a splash in 2017 after winning two silver medals in a women’s world championship — and then in 2019 took home two gold medals and a silver medal in the women’s competition at the Pacific Games in Samoa.
In 2015, IOC guidelines ruled that transgender athletes can compete as women if their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition, Reuters reported.
But numerous scientists have criticized these guidelines, saying they do little to mitigate the biological advantages of those who have gone through puberty as males, including bone and muscle density, Australia’s 7 News reported.
Comment Cutting to the chase, sport is about money and ego. It is also about power and skill , dependent on muscle mass. This controversy gives the lie to female equality. Testosterone builds muscle and males have more of it.
Testosterone also accounts for other differences, significantly in temperament and spatial skill. If feminists really believe in equality , then they should shut up about this ludicrous issue of transwomen in female sport. The equality movement is all about power among the masses , with women campaigning for ever more laws to disadvantage and scapegoat white men. They want men to change, so some men go to the extreme and women don’t like it.
The alacrity with which feminism has embraced BAME and BLM is welcomed by the elite who do not want their real bastion of power challenged – that included not sorting out real inequality in Africa and India. Women’s groups only talk about themselves and the female blob. They demand laws to control speech, already having made serious gains and attacks on male identity – with little boys queuing up to change sex. They really don’t like men stealing their clothes. It is very funny.
It also means encouraging religious bigotry and divisions as a distraction from poverty and tyranny , blaming everything on white working class masses throughout history , even though only a black and white elite made gain from slavery while enslaving their own , is the trick. Modern sport is an obscene money machine which transwomen want to cash in on.
British theatres pledge to only cast transgender actors in trans roles Posted May 26th 2021
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A group of British theatres says it will only cast transgender actors in trans roles, joining a heated debate over whether performers must mirror the sexuality or gender identity of LGBT+ characters they play on stage or screen.
The ‘Trans Casting Statement’, signed by over 40 theatres and production companies – including London‘s prestigious Royal Court and the Oxford Playhouse – also committed to ‘actively seek casting opportunities’ of any gender for trans actors. Advertisement
In a statement, the theatres said their aim was to boost trans visibility on stage and better support what can be a marginalised community.
Hollywood actors who are not trans have won Oscars for playing trans characters, including Jared Leto for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ in 2014. © Provided by Daily Mail (
But in recent years Halle Berry and Scarlett Johansson have pulled out of roles after criticism.
‘This statement is hugely necessary,’ Reece Lyons, a trans actor said.
‘Trans people are a hugely marginalised community. We’re facing a lot … of negative media and press attention.
‘If a role is a trans-specific role, then the actor who takes on that role needs to have the lived experience to be able to portray the nuance of that experience,’ she said.
The view that only LGBT+ actors should play LGBT+ characters has been criticised by some in the industry who say that roles should be available to the best actor for the part. © Provided by Daily Mail (
Similar disputes have erupted over who should perform disabled and Black roles on stage or the merits of women performing male parts in Shakespeare.
‘I would certainly audition for a trans role if I felt it was a role I wanted to play in a production I liked,’ Sam Lockley, a non-transgender actor and writer, said by email.
‘I would also audition for a role whose sexuality I don’t share, or whose political views I don’t share. It’s part of acting to play people that are different from you.’
Scarlett Johansson, a cisgendered actress, dropped out of playing a transgender character in the movie Rub & Tug in 2019, apologising for having been ‘tone-deaf’ to criticism.
Johansson told Vanity Fair at the time: ‘I mishandled that situation.
‘To feel like you’re kind of tone-deaf to something is not a good feeling.’
Female student, 29, who said ‘women have vaginas’ and are ‘not as strong as men’ faces disciplinary action by university after fellow classmates complained about the ‘offensive and discriminatory’ comments – May 18th 2021
- Lisa Keogh facing disciplinary action at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland
- The student said women were born with female genitals during a video seminar
- She was reported to university’s chiefs by her classmates following the debate
Published: 02:03, 15 May 2021 | Updated: 17:43, 15 May 2021
A student who said women were born with female genitals and the difference in physical strength between men and women ‘was a fact’ is facing disciplinary action by her university.
Lisa Keogh, 29, who studies law at Abertay University in Dundee was reported to university chiefs by her classmates after she said that women were not as physically strong as men.
The mature student, who is in her final year, is now facing a formal investigation by the university for the alleged ‘offensive’ and ‘discriminatory’ comments.
The mother-of-two said she had been taking part in a video seminar about gender feminism and the law when she raised concerns about trans women taking part in mixed martial arts.
- Following the debate, in which Ms Keogh claims she was muted by her lecturer, the mature student was met with a flurry of abuse from her fellow classmates. Pictured, Abertay University in Dundee
After telling her classmates that a women who had testosterone in her body for 32 years would be genetically stronger than the average woman, the mature student was accused of calling women the ‘weaker sex’.
She told The Times: ‘I thought it was a joke. I thought there was no way that the university would pursue me for utilising my legal right to freedom of speech.’
Following the debate, in which Ms Keogh claims she was muted by her lecturer, the mature student was met with a flurry of abuse from her fellow classmates.
Ms Keogh, who is being supported by Joanna Cherry QC, the SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, continued: ‘I didn’t intend to be offensive but I did take part in a debate and outlined my sincerely held views.’
She added: ‘I wasn’t being mean, transphobic or offensive. I was stating a basic biological fact.’
Comment Though I agree with this female student, there is an irony. Feminists are always telling us that women are equal . The sexes – or must I say genders – are not equal , people are not equal. The basic equality issue is money. The rest is a smokescreen.
Physically men and women , on average are not equal. Females cannot match men in any sport where power , spatial awareness and stamina are the issue. Twisting and limiting language, which is the woke norm , to argue that TS women are or are not biological women will not alter reality.
Female ‘sports ‘ stars are worried about their egos and the money and they should because any male who has transitioned after puberty will beat them. They don’t like being told that , but they don’t like the competition either.
There is also the more disturbing truth that this mature female student was shut up by her lecturer , abused and now faces disciplinary action. All the signs are that Britain is an advanced police state. That is why the authorities and their media keep telling us it is a democracy. LGBTQI is a prison , lifestyle choice at best.
Peoples’ sex lives , like their religion should be private matters. But the elite need to make issues of all of this. This mentality doesn’t stop here. It is Nazism. Stifling this girl’s statement of the obvious is just another example that anyone caught saying or writing the wrong thing will face judgement by the vurtue signallers and punishment by the British Police State.
Mayflower & The New New World by Robert Cook May 12th 2021
I took the above photo as one of a series while working on a book called ‘Southampton Past & Present.’ It was the inspiration for my subsequent novel in the same year, 2003 , ‘Man , Maid, Woman.’
The ‘Mayflower’ called at Southampton on its way from London and then to Plymouth before crossing the Atlantic with its cargo of Puritans , founding ‘The New World’ in 1620.
Finding new worlds now is pretty well impossible with so many people, greedy elites and competing cultures. Here we have an alternative Mayflower New World as transvestites and transsexuals come out in growing numbers.
Such people provoke extreme reactions. London’s Gender Identity Clinic take the view that transsexualism is not mental illness, but most of their patients have other mental illness which a sex change process can do a lot to help. Stringent anti hate laws make a critical examination of these sensitive matters.
I will , however, return to this subject as and when I see fit , because it is a fundamental socio psychological condition. Why it exists and how it should be treated are two of the key questions , along with why and how it appears to manifest itself and to be encouraged from ever younger pre puberty ages. Robert Cook
Alabama Enacts Law Banning Transgender Athletes From Participating in Biologically Inconsistent Public School Sports Posted April 28th 2021
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has signed into law a bill that bans transgender student-athletes from competing on K–12 public school single-sex teams that match their gender identity.
House Bill 391, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature last week, mandates that those who aren’t biologically male or female won’t be able to participate in school-sponsored sports events that are inconsistent with their sex assigned at birth.
“A public K-12 school may not allow a biological female to participate on a male team if there is a female team in a sport,” the bill reads. “A public K-12 school may never allow a biological male to participate on a female team.”
According to the bill, it’s important to make sure sports teams remain separate and sex-specific so that female athletes can have equal opportunity to compete, considering inherent athletic advantages for biological males including, on average, a larger body size, more skeletal muscle mass, lower percentage of body fat, and greater maximal delivery of anaerobic and aerobic energy.
The bill doesn’t specify how student-athletes can prove their biological sex, although its earlier version said that will be determined by their birth certificates.
Already this year, Arkansas, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Tennessee also joined Idaho’s 2020 ban on transgender athletes in school sports, which was later blocked by a federal judge and is currently pending legal review. Tennessee was the first U.S. state to ban both transgender girls and boys from participating in corresponding single-sex school sports, while all others only ban transgender girls. South Dakota’s ban was enacted by executive order, not by legislation.
The states’ legislative efforts came as the Biden administration pushed to open up single-sex spaces and competitions to members of the opposite sex, depending on the person’s stated gender identity. An executive order signed by President Joe Biden on his first day in the White House states that it’s the new administration’s policy to make sure children are able to “learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
Miguel Cardona, who was confirmed in March as the new U.S. secretary of education, also said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he believes it’s the right of male-born transgender students to compete in girls’ sports.
“I think it’s critically important to respect the rights of all students, including students who are transgender, and that they are afforded the opportunities that every other student has to participate in extracurricular actives,” Cardona said at the time.
I don’t know what I think about the reality of female brains in male bodies. The reality that feminism offers and encourages females into a more aggressive male type behaviour, dressing accordingly seems to pass unnoticed by media et al. After all , this is the age of equality ( sic )
But when boys want to be like girls , girls are upset and the equality loving feminists play the SIS gender card. They fear unfair competition and rape from people they still regard as men , but without penises.
Depending on how one looks at this , it is either laughable or sad. Fathers pushed out of homes on dubious grounds that must not be talked about because women are always right and truthful must not be mentioned . Girls like BAME have rights to positive role models , but that is not so for little white boys. As for little black boys , unless they have rich parents , gang crime is a favoured way of finding their sense of identity and belonging.
It isn’t good. One suspects , knowing Alabama , religion has something to do with this righteous ban. R.J Cook
Typical Woman – she just can’t make up her mind. Posted April 18th 2021
More to come on this interesting case.
A high-flying transgender lawyer has revealed how she has undergone a gender re-assignment operation for the third time – after going back to being a man in a bid to reconnect with her children.
Samantha Kane, from west London, explained how she felt she ‘had no choice’ but to transition back to a woman again, following two previous sex changes, and now feels like her ‘true self’ again.
The lawyer and author, who was born Sam Hashimi in Baghdad, Iraq, first underwent gender reassignment surgery back in 1997, becoming Samantha.
But in 2004, she decided she wanted to go back to being a man, undergoing another operation to become Charles, having become estranged from her son and daughter following her first sex change.
Earlier this year, Samantha, 58, underwent surgery to become a woman again, spending a total of over £150,000 on gender re-assignment operations over the years.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Samantha admitted that her decision to transition back to a man had been largely influenced by a desire to see her children, who she became estranged from after divorcing first wife Trudi in the early 1990s.
‘I couldn’t see my children for around 10 years, I started missing them so much,’ she explained. ‘My children grew up not really knowing me. It was so difficult.
‘Eventually, I thought, maybe I could get back what I love if I changed back, and became a man again. That’s really the reason [I did it].’
However, Samantha said that within a year of living as a Charles, she began to realise that she had made a mistake in transitioning back to a man – particularly as the gender reassignment surgery hadn’t gone as expected. +8
Samantha had been living as Charles Kane (above, pictured at home in London in 2008) since 2004. She explained how she had decided to go back to being a man in a bid to re-connect with her children, who she became estranged from after becoming Samantha for the first time
‘In the first year, I had regrets – what they claimed the operation would achieve, they never achieved anyway,’ she said.
‘Turning a man who was born a man into a woman, and then approximating back to what it was like being a male will never work – that was really part of it.’
At the time, Charles was engaged to a woman named Victoria, but the relationship quickly broke down.
‘I was feeling uncomfortable. I was in a relationship with a woman and it was expected of me to be all male really,’ Samantha explained.
‘As Charles, I wasn’t 100 per cent accepted. I was having these regrets of changing back.’ +8
Samantha underwent her first sex change in 1997, when she went from being Sam to Samantha. She is pictured here in Monaco in 2001
A timeline of Samantha’s journey
1960 – Born a man, Sam Hashimi, in Baghdad, Iraq
1997 – Transitioned to a woman, living as Samantha Kane
2004 – Underwent second gender re-assignment surgery to go back to being a man, and began living as Charles Kane
2017 – Began living as Samantha again
However, Samantha explained how she didn’t want to transition back to a woman straight away – in part, due to her high-flying career as a barrister.
‘I went through all this trouble to be Charles, and one had to make the best out of it I suppose,’ she said.
‘I’m a lawyer, and thought people wouldn’t understand me changing back. At the Bar, people have to adopt more tradition roles. Chopping and changing is frowned on.’
But Samantha explained how re-connecting with her adult son eventually helped her decide to transition back to a woman.
‘I saw him shortly before his wedding, and he told me he was getting married, and he invited to me to his wedding. That was really nice,’ she said.
‘He said, “I don’t mind who you are. I love you whether you are a male or a female. If it makes you be happier to be a female, then so be it.”
‘That’s what encouraged me to change back basically. He’s very supportive.’
Samantha began dressing as a woman in March last year, and airier this year had gender re-assignment surgery and breast implants fitted.
The lawyer says that since the operation in January she now finally feels like herself again, after all these years.
‘I feel a lot better in myself now. I came to the conclusion that you have no choice,’ Samantha said. ‘I am so much happier to be my true self as a woman.
‘I always knew I was in the wrong body, even when I was really, really young, five or six-years-old.
‘But I grew up in Baghdad in the ’60s and the ’70s, so who would hear of anything about being transgender or having surgery?
‘So I buried it, and I thought I have to be conventional. I met a woman who I got on well with, and I got married and had children.’
Samantha says she feels that being a women is easier nowadays, compared to when she first transitioned back in the 1990s.
‘When I transitioned to a woman in 1997, things were really difficult for women generally,’ she said. +8
Samantha (left in 2001) underwent her first gender reassignment surgery in 1997, in order to become Samantha for the first time. However, she decided to transition to a man in 2004 (right), as she thought it would help her re-connect with her children
‘Now, it’s not as bad for women. You get more equal opportunities at work. I haven’t noticed as much discrimination against women as there used to be.’
However, she explained how she has found the recent conversations around transgender women troubling.
‘Before my surgery it was quite difficult, because there was all this debate about what is the difference between transgender females and real females, and whether transgender women are accepted as real women,’ she explained.
‘But I felt I had no choice [but go ahead with the operation], because I knew it was what would make me happy and make me complete as a woman.
‘I had to go ahead with it at all costs, essentially.’ +8
Samantha (pictured in 1998 following her first gender reassignment operation) explained how she became estranged from her two children after divorcing his wife Trudi, following his decision to transition to a woman
Following her gender reassignment surgery, Samantha says she has been getting a lot of interest in the romance department – although she wants to enjoy being single for now.
‘I want to enjoy being single for a while, and not to rush. Rushing into relationships is quite difficult for someone who doesn’t even have my history.
‘I’m probably one of a handful of people in the whole world who has had a sex transition three times.
‘You need someone with a pHD to understand what I’ve gone through,’ she explained.
‘But one should always be open to love. I could love a man, I could love a woman, as long as there feels like there’s a connection – that’s what I’m looking for.’
Samantha Kane’s new book Mohammed and Susan (Diversity Books, £8.99) is out on September 6.
Comment I first heard of Samantha Kane while in conversation with Dr Russell Reid in 2003 , the year I wrote ‘Man , Maid, Woman’. Reid was facing legal action from Ms Kane for wrongfull daignosis and rushing her case. Dr Reid , a ground breaking gender psychiatrist, earned a reputation for prescribing hormone drugs following just one consultation. This led to a flurry of complaints , an inquiry and Dr Reid being banned from sole practice. He was effectively retired from his West London practice because of it.
Meanwhile , the ultra wealthy Samanatha Kane – formerly Charles – had featured in a number of news articles and a TV documentary where she was shown on the bridge of her new luxury yacht and preparing for a second sex change back to male. Charles reborn , was shown driving his ex army Landrover through London’s West End and talking of his hopes to meet an ‘English Rose.’
In a subsequent news feature Charles Kane II spoke of life as a woman. He said he noticed how long it took ‘sis’ women to choose clothes in a dress shop , while Samantha knew exactly what she wanted. Charles also observed that Samantha was not taken as seriously in business , alluding to being patronised. One is tempted to comment that she made the right decision to go back to female because , like so many women she just couldn’t make up her mind.
As far as being patronised , Roberta Jane Cook certainly experienced that. She also knew what clothes to buy and wear . I suspect that might have something to do with age because modern young women are not subject to the same influences and role models. Everyday fashion is tacky , so choosing one piece of trash from another is a bit difficult.
As for not being allowed to see her children , that has to do with ‘sis’ women believing that ‘sis’ womanhood is a God given sacred state of being and innocence – the Vigin Mother Mary ideology. Hence , as well as threatened by the competition and loss of male scapegoats, they regard transsexual as unclean mad perverts. Facts.
Meanwhile , successful transsexuals like Stephanie Ann Lloyd and Jan Morris quietly did their own thing , comfortable as women and living a life outside the LGBTQI fortress that bigots require them to live in. This is a country still dominated by Christian and Islamic.Judaic hypocrisy. R.J Cook
Cogito ergo sum – Posted with comment by R.J Cook
It may seem odd to post an article on Descartean dualism on one of the two toxic transgender clinic pages. The ignorant usually think only of sex and kinky cross dressers when it comes to those who ‘think’ they are the opposite sex. Some feminists become incredibly hostile , seeing MTF as a threat to their self righteous hectoring hegemony.
Many men are attracted to male to certain female transsexuals because those ‘women’ aspire to an old fashioned caring and elegant image which is no longer commonplace as average women become ever more assertive , competitive, aggrieved and disgruntled.
However, the body clearly plays an important part in their ‘gender identity.’ The methods used to diagnose gender identity issues , as per the the likes of Britain’s Tavistock Gender Identity Clinic are vague , in my view , ideological and based on the general premise that those who choose it are not mentally ill.
However, they cover themselves against misconduct claims, with the interesting statement that , many of their patients have other mental health problems so bad that they might commit suicide – begging the question how can seriously mentally ill people be trusted when they pesent themselves as transgendered in the first place ? . On the basis of ‘inductive logic’ ( contrdictions in terms ) they argue that every case is successful dignosis because far more of their ‘successes’ would have killed themselves without the surgery.
Philosophy was one of my six compulsory foundation year subjects from an intensive economics and economic history degree course at the University of East Anglia in the early 1970s. I found the subject perplexing and seemingly hard to follow. Descartes was early on the agenda and seemed like nonsense.. I was even more perplexed when my philosophy tutor told me that my work and seminar contributions were outstanding and that I should choose it as my major subject.
I chose not to because it didn’t seem like a real subject. However , when I attended an old faculty meeting in 2005, I ended up giving it a forceful defence from attack by a thundering woman mourning the demise of sociology at the University.
By this time , life had taught me the great value of ‘truth’ seeking philosophy. As a former college lecturer and Oxford University A level examiner, I had formed the conclusion that so called Critical Sociology , along with Critical Race Theory , had no claim to truth seeking. It was pure ideology with a subtle social engineering agenda. The police love it. So, after my talk, Tim O’Hagan Professor Emeritus in philosophy, thanked me heartily while vigorously shaking my hand.
I must however, conclude that Descartes had good ideas but the mind would be rather lonely and poorly defined – like Krang from The Turtles’ – without a body. Having said that, I knew a man a few years ago who was run over aged 7 , most of his body paralysed for the next 70 years. That body could not function properly without his brain , and vice versa. There is evidence that memories and other data are stored in other organs and have been transferred to other people via transplants.
The beauty of honest philosophy is that its proponents keep on asking questions. The ugliness of modern sociology is in the way it is warped and fixed for oppresive control purposes in the modern Police State. It is all very well to offer the alleged freedoms of gender choice , but the thinking behind it is suspect. If the mind is separate then it shouldn’t matter what the body is. If the body and mind talk to each other , it poses the question which department makes the gender switch choice and why ? Or is the issue being resolved by the State’s social engineers to resolve some very serious problems and tensions that the ruling elite have deliberately caused ?
The Mind-Body Distinction
One of the deepest and most lasting legacies of Descartes’ philosophy is his thesis that mind and body are really distinct—a thesis now called “mind-body dualism.” He reaches this conclusion by arguing that the nature of the mind (that is, a thinking, non-extended thing) is completely different from that of the body (that is, an extended, non-thinking thing), and therefore it is possible for one to exist without the other. This argument gives rise to the famous problem of mind-body causal interaction still debated today: how can the mind cause some of our bodily limbs to move (for example, raising one’s hand to ask a question), and how can the body’s sense organs cause sensations in the mind when their natures are completely different? This article examines these issues as well as Descartes’ own response to this problem through his brief remarks on how the mind is united with the body to form a human being. This will show how these issues arise because of a misconception about Descartes’ theory of mind-body union, and how the correct conception of their union avoids this version of the problem. The article begins with an examination of the term “real distinction” and of Descartes’ probable motivations for maintaining his dualist thesis.
Table of Contents
- What is a Real Distinction?
- Why a Real Distinction?
- The Real Distinction Argument
- The Mind-Body Problem
- Descartes’ Response to the Mind-Body Problem
- References and Further Reading
1. What is a Real Distinction?
It is important to note that for Descartes “real distinction” is a technical term denoting the distinction between two or more substances (see Principles, part I, section 60). A substance is something that does not require any other creature to exist—it can exist with only the help of God’s concurrence—whereas, a mode is a quality or affection of that substance (see Principles part I, section 5). Accordingly, a mode requires a substance to exist and not just the concurrence of God. Being sphere shaped is a mode of an extended substance. For example, a sphere requires an object extended in three dimensions in order to exist: an unextended sphere cannot be conceived without contradiction. But a substance can be understood to exist alone without requiring any other creature to exist. For example, a stone can exist all by itself. That is, its existence is not dependent upon the existence of minds or other bodies; and, a stone can exist without being any particular size or shape. This indicates for Descartes that God, if he chose, could create a world constituted by this stone all by itself, showing further that it is a substance “really distinct” from everything else except God. Hence, the thesis that mind and body are really distinct just means that each could exist all by itself without any other creature, including each other, if God chose to do it. However, this does not mean that these substances do exist separately. Whether or not they actually exist apart is another issue entirely.
2. Why a Real Distinction?
A question one might ask is: what’s the point of arguing that mind and body could each exist without the other? What’s the payoff for going through all the trouble and enduring all the problems to which it gives rise? For Descartes the payoff is twofold. The first is religious in nature in that it provides a rational basis for a hope in the soul’s immortality [because Descartes presumes that the mind and soul are more or less the same thing]. The second is more scientifically oriented, for the complete absence of mentality from the nature of physical things is central to making way for Descartes’ version of the new, mechanistic physics. This section investigates both of these motivating factors.
a. The Religious Motivation
In his Letter to the Sorbonne published at the beginning of his seminal work, Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes states that his purpose in showing that the human mind or soul is really distinct from the body is to refute those “irreligious people” who only have faith in mathematics and will not believe in the soul’s immortality without a mathematical demonstration of it. Descartes goes on to explain how, because of this, these people will not pursue moral virtue without the prospect of an afterlife with rewards for virtue and punishments for vice. But, since all the arguments in the Meditations—including the real distinction arguments— are for Descartes absolutely certain on a par with geometrical demonstrations, he believes that these people will be obliged to accept them. Hence, irreligious people will be forced to believe in the prospect of an afterlife. However, recall that Descartes’ conclusion is only that the mind or soul can exist without the body. He stops short of demonstrating that the soul is actually immortal. Indeed, in the Synopsis to the Mediations, Descartes claims only to have shown that the decay of the body does not logically or metaphysically imply the destruction of the mind: further argumentation is required for the conclusion that the mind actually survives the body’s destruction. This would involve both “an account of the whole of physics” and an argument showing that God cannot annihilate the mind. Yet, even though the real distinction argument does not go this far, it does, according to Descartes, provide a sufficient foundation for religion, since the hope for an afterlife now has a rational basis and is no longer a mere article of faith.
b. The Scientific Motivation
The other motive for arguing that mind and body could each exist without the other is more scientifically oriented, stemming from Descartes’ intended replacement of final causal explanations in physics thought to be favored by late scholastic-Aristotelian philosophers with mechanistic explanations based on the model of geometry. Although the credit for setting the stage for this scholastic-Aristotelian philosophy dominant at Descartes’ time should go to Thomas Aquinas (because of his initial, thorough interpretation and appropriation of Aristotle’s philosophy), it is also important to bear in mind that other thinkers working within this Aristotelian framework such as Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and Francisco Suarez, diverged from the Thomistic position on a variety of important issues. Indeed, by Descartes’ time, scholastic positions divergent from Thomism became so widespread and subtle in their differences that sorting them out was quite difficult. Notwithstanding this convoluted array of positions, Descartes understood one thesis to stand at the heart of the entire tradition: the doctrine that everything ultimately behaved for the sake of some end or goal. Though these “final causes,” as they were called, were not the only sorts of causes recognized by scholastic thinkers, it is sufficient for present purposes to recognize that Descartes believed scholastic natural philosophers used them as principles for physical explanations. For this reason, a brief look at how final causes were supposed to work is in order.
Descartes understood all scholastics to maintain that everything was thought to have a final cause that is the ultimate end or goal for the sake of which the rest of the organism was organized. This principle of organization became known as a thing’s “substantial form,” because it was this principle that explained why some hunk of matter was arranged in such and such a way so as to be some species of substance. For example, in the case of a bird, say, the swallow, the substantial form of swallowness was thought to organize matter for the sake of being a swallow species of substance. Accordingly, any dispositions a swallow might have, such as the disposition for making nests, would then also be explained by means of this ultimate goal of being a swallow; that is, swallows are disposed for making nests for the sake of being a swallow species of substance. This explanatory scheme was also thought to work for plants and inanimate natural objects.
A criticism of the traditional employment of substantial forms and their concomitant final causes in physics is found in the Sixth Replies where Descartes examines how the quality of gravity was used to explain a body’s downward motion:
But what makes it especially clear that my idea of gravity was taken largely from the idea I had of the mind is the fact that I thought that gravity carried bodies toward the centre of the earth as if it had some knowledge of the centre within itself (AT VII 442: CSM II 298).
On this pre-Newtonian account, a characteristic goal of all bodies was to reach its proper place, namely, the center of the earth. So, the answer to the question, “Why do stones fall downward?” would be, “Because they are striving to achieve their goal of reaching the center of the earth.” According to Descartes, this implies that the stone must have knowledge of this goal, know the means to attain it, and know where the center of the earth is located. But, how can a stone know anything? Surely only minds can have knowledge. Yet, since stones are inanimate bodies without minds, it follows that they cannot know anything at all—let alone anything about the center of the earth.
Descartes continues on to make the following point:
But later on I made the observations which led me to make a careful distinction between the idea of the mind and the ideas of body and corporeal motion; and I found that all those other ideas of . . . ‘substantial forms’ which I had previously held were ones which I had put together or constructed from those basic ideas (AT VII 442-3: CSM II 298).
Here, Descartes is claiming that the concept of a substantial form as part of the entirely physical world stems from a confusion of the ideas of mind and body. This confusion led people to mistakenly ascribe mental properties like knowledge to entirely non-mental things like stones, plants, and, yes, even non-human animals. The real distinction of mind and body can then also be used to alleviate this confusion and its resultant mistakes by showing that bodies exist and move as they do without mentality, and as such principles of mental causation such as goals, purposes (that is, final causes), and knowledge have no role to play in the explanation of physical phenomena. So the real distinction of mind and body also serves the more scientifically oriented end of eliminating any element of mentality from the idea of body. In this way, a clear understanding of the geometrical nature of bodies can be achieved and better explanations obtained.
3. The Real Distinction Argument
Descartes formulates this argument in many different ways, which has led many scholars to believe there are several different real distinction arguments. However, it is more accurate to consider these formulations as different versions of one and the same argument. The fundamental premise of each is identical: each has the fundamental premise that the natures of mind and body are completely different from one another.
The First Version
The first version is found in this excerpt from the Sixth Meditation:
[O]n the one hand I have a clear and distinct idea of myself, in so far as I am simply a thinking, non-extended thing [that is, a mind], and on the other hand I have a distinct idea of body, in so far as this is simply an extended, non-thinking thing. And accordingly, it is certain that I am really distinct from my body, and can exist without it (AT VII 78: CSM II 54).
Notice that the argument is given from the first person perspective (as are the entire Meditations). This “I” is, of course, Descartes insofar as he is a thinking thing or mind, and the argument is intended to work for any “I” or mind. So, for present purposes, it is safe to generalize the argument by replacing “I” with “mind” in the relevant places:
- I have a clear and distinct idea of the mind as a thinking, non-extended thing.
- I have a clear and distinct idea of body as an extended, non-thinking thing.
- Therefore, the mind is really distinct from the body and can exist without it.
At first glance it may seem that, without justification, Descartes is bluntly asserting that he conceives of mind and body as two completely different things, and that from his conception, he is inferring that he (or any mind) can exist without the body. But this is no blunt, unjustified assertion. Much more is at work here: most notably what is at work is his doctrine of clear and distinct ideas and their veridical guarantee. Indeed the truth of his intellectual perception of the natures of mind and body is supposed to be guaranteed by the fact that this perception is “clear and distinct.” Since the justification for these two premises rests squarely on the veridical guarantee of whatever is “clearly and distinctly” perceived, a brief side trip explaining this doctrine is in order.
Descartes explains what he means by a “clear and distinct idea” in his work Principles of Philosophy at part I, section 45. Here he likens a clear intellectual perception to a clear visual perception. So, just as someone might have a sharply focused visual perception of something, an idea is clear when it is in sharp intellectual focus. Moreover, an idea is distinct when, in addition to being clear, all other ideas not belonging to it are completely excluded from it. Hence, Descartes is claiming in both premises that his idea of the mind and his idea of the body exclude all other ideas that do not belong to them, including each other, and all that remains is what can be clearly understood of each. As a result, he clearly and distinctly understands the mind all by itself, separately from the body, and the body all by itself, separately from the mind.
According to Descartes, his ability to clearly and distinctly understand them separately from one another implies that each can exist alone without the other. This is because “[e]xistence is contained in the idea or concept of every single thing, since we cannot conceive of anything except as existing. Possible or contingent existence is contained in the concept of a limited thing…” (AT VII 166: CSM II 117). Descartes, then, clearly and distinctly perceives the mind as possibly existing all by itself, and the body as possibly existing all by itself. But couldn’t Descartes somehow be mistaken about his clear and distinct ideas? Given the existence of so many non-thinking bodies like stones, there is no question that bodies can exist without minds. So, even if he could be mistaken about what he clearly and distinctly understands, there is other evidence in support of premise 2. But can minds exist without bodies? Can thinking occur without a brain? If the answer to this question is “no,” the first premise would be false and, therefore, Descartes would be mistaken about one of his clear and distinct perceptions. Indeed, since we have no experience of minds actually existing without bodies as we do of bodies actually existing without minds, the argument will stand only if Descartes’ clear and distinct understanding of the mind’s nature somehow guarantees the truth of premise 1; but, at this point, it is not evident whether Descartes’ “clear and distinct” perception guarantees the truth of anything.
However, in the Fourth Meditation, Descartes goes to great lengthsto guarantee the truth of whatever is clearly and distinctly understood. This veridical guarantee is based on the theses that God exists and that he cannot be a deceiver. These arguments, though very interesting, are numerous and complex, and so they will not be discussed here. Suffice it to say that since Descartes believes he has established God’s inability to deceive with absolute, geometrical certainty, he would have to consider anything contradicting this conclusion to be false. Moreover, Descartes claims that he cannot help but believe clear and distinct ideas to be true. However, if God put a clear and distinct idea in him that was false, then he could not help but believe a falsehood to be true and, to make matters worse, he would never be able to discover the mistake. Since God would be the author of this false clear and distinct idea, he would be the source of the error and would, therefore, be a deceiver, which must be false. Hence, all clear and distinct ideas must be true, because it is impossible for them to be false given God’s non-deceiving nature.
That said, the clarity and distinctness of Descartes’ understanding of mind and body guarantees the truth of premise 1. Hence, both “clear and distinct” premises are not blunt, unjustified assertions of what he believes but have very strong rational support from within Descartes’ system. However, if it turns out that God does not exist or that he can be a deceiver, then all bets are off. There would then no longer be any veridical guarantee of what is clearly and distinctly understood and, as a result, the first premise could be false. Consequently, premise 1 would not bar the possibility of minds requiring brains to exist and, therefore, this premise would not be absolutely certain as Descartes supposed. In the end, the conclusion is established with absolute certainty only when considered from within Descartes’ own epistemological framework but loses its force if that framework turns out to be false or when evaluated from outside of it.
These guaranteed truths express some very important points about Descartes’ conception of mind and body. Notice that mind and body are defined as complete opposites. This means that the ideas of mind and body represent two natures that have absolutely nothing in common. And, it is this complete diversity that establishes the possibility of their independent existence. But, how can Descartes make a legitimate inference from his independent understanding of mind and body as completely different things to their independent existence? To answer this question, recall that every idea of limited or finite things contains the idea of possible or contingent existence, and so Descartes is conceiving mind and body as possibly existing all by themselves without any other creature. Since there is no doubt about this possibility for Descartes and given the fact that God is all powerful, it follows that God could bring into existence a mind without a body and vice versa just as Descartes clearly and distinctly understands them. Hence, the power of God makes Descartes’ perceived logical possibility of minds existing without bodies into a metaphysical possibility. As a result, minds without bodies and bodies without minds would require nothing besides God’s concurrence to exist and, therefore, they are two really distinct substances.
The Second Version
The argument just examined is formulated in a different way later in the Sixth Meditation:
[T]here is a great difference between the mind and the body, inasmuch as the body is by its very nature always divisible, while the mind is utterly indivisible. For when I consider the mind, or myself in so far as I am merely a thinking thing, I am unable to distinguish any parts within myself; I understand myself to be something quite single and complete….By contrast, there is no corporeal or extended thing that I can think of which in my thought I cannot easily divide into parts; and this very fact makes me understand that it is divisible. This one argument would be enough to show me that the mind is completely different from the body…. (AT VII 86-87: CSM II 59).
This argument can be reformulated as follows, replacing “mind” for “I” as in the first version:
- I understand the mind to be indivisible by its very nature.
- I understand body to be divisible by its very nature.
- Therefore, the mind is completely different from the body.
Notice the conclusion that mind and body are really distinct is not explicitly stated but can be inferred from 3. What is interesting about this formulation is how Descartes reaches his conclusion. He does not assert a clear and distinct understanding of these two natures as completely different but instead makes his point based on a particular property of each. However, this is not just any property but a property each has “by its very nature.” Something’s nature is just what it is to be that kind of thing, and so the term “nature” is here being used as synonymous with “essence.” On this account, extension constitutes the nature or essence of bodily kinds of things; while thinking constitutes the nature or essence of mental kinds of things. So, here Descartes is arguing that a property of what it is to be a body, or extended thing, is to be divisible, while a property of what it is to be a mind or thinking thing is to be indivisible.
Descartes’ line of reasoning in support of these claims about the respective natures of mind and body runs as follows. First, it is easy to see that bodies are divisible. Just take any body, say a pencil or a piece of paper, and break it or cut it in half. Now you have two bodies instead of one. Second, based on this line of reasoning, it is easy to see why Descartes believed his nature or mind to be indivisible: if a mind or an “I” could be divided, then two minds or “I’s” would result; but since this “I” just is my self, this would be the same as claiming that the division of my mind results in two selves, which is absurd. Therefore, the body is essentially divisible and the mind is essentially indivisible: but how does this lead to the conclusion that they are completely different?
Here it should be noted that a difference in just any non-essential property would have only shown that mind and body are not exactly the same. But this is a much weaker claim than Descartes’ conclusion that they are completely different. For two things could have the same nature, for example, extension, but have other, changeable properties or modes distinguishing them. Hence, these two things would be different in some respect, for example, in shape, but not completely different, since both would still be extended kinds of things. Consequently, Descartes needs their complete diversity to claim that he has completely independent conceptions of each and, in turn, that mind and body can exist independently of one another.
Descartes can reach this stronger conclusion because these essential properties are contradictories. On the one hand, Descartes argues that the mind is indivisible because he cannot perceive himself as having any parts. On the other hand, the body is divisible because he cannot think of a body except as having parts. Hence, if mind and body had the same nature, it would be a nature both with and without parts. Yet such a thing is unintelligible: how could something both be separable into parts and yet not separable into parts? The answer is that it can’t, and so mind and body cannot be one and the same but two completely different natures. Notice that, as with the first version, mind and body are here being defined as opposites. This implies that divisible body can be understood without indivisible mind and vice versa. Accordingly each can be understood as existing all by itself: they are two really distinct substances.
However, unlike the first version, Descartes does not invoke the doctrine of clear and distinct ideas to justify his premises. If he had, this version, like the first, would be absolutely certain from within Descartes’ own epistemological system. But if removed from this apparatus, it is possible that Descartes is mistaken about the indivisibility of the mind, because the possibility of the mind requiring a brain to exist would still be viable. This would mean that, since extension is part of the nature of mind, it would, being an extended thing, be composed of parts and, therefore, it would be divisible. As a result, Descartes could not legitimately reach the conclusion that mind and body are completely different. This would also mean that the further, implicit conclusion that mind and body are really distinct could not be reached either. In the end, the main difficulty with Descartes’ real distinction argument is that he has not adequately eliminated the possibility of minds being extended things like brains.
4. The Mind-Body Problem
The real distinction of mind and body based on their completely diverse natures is the root of the famous mind-body problem: how can these two substances with completely different natures causally interact so as to give rise to a human being capable of having voluntary bodily motions and sensations? Although several versions of this problem have arisen over the years, this section will be exclusively devoted to the version of it Descartes confronted as expressed by Pierre Gassendi, the author of the Fifth Objections, and Descartes’ correspondent, Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia. Their concern arises from the claim at the heart of the real distinction argument that mind and body are completely different or opposite things.
The complete diversity of their respective natures has serious consequences for the kinds of modes each can possess. For instance, in the Second Meditation, Descartes argues that he is nothing but a thinking thing or mind, that is, Descartes argues that he is a “thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, is willing, is unwilling, and also imagines and has sensory perceptions” (AT VII 28: CSM II 19). It makes no sense to ascribe such modes to entirely extended, non-thinking things like stones, and therefore, only minds can have these kinds of modes. Conversely, it makes no sense to ascribe modes of size, shape, quantity and motion to non-extended, thinking things. For example, the concept of an unextended shape is unintelligible. Therefore, a mind cannot be understood to be shaped or in motion, nor can a body understand or sense anything. Human beings, however, are supposed to be combinations of mind and body such that the mind’s choices can cause modes of motion in the body, and motions in certain bodily organs, such as the eye, cause modes of sensation in the mind.
The mind’s ability to cause motion in the body will be addressed first. Take for example a voluntary choice, or willing, to raise one’s hand in class to ask a question. The arm moving upward is the effect while the choice to raise it is the cause. But willing is a mode of the non-extended mind alone, whereas the arm’s motion is a mode of the extended body alone: how can the non-extended mind bring about this extended effect? It is this problem of voluntary bodily motion or the so-called problem of “mind to body causation” that so troubled Gassendi and Elizabeth. The crux of their concern was that in order for one thing to cause motion in another, they must come into contact with one another as, for example, in the game of pool the cue ball must be in motion and come into contact with the eight-ball in order for the latter to be set in motion. The problem is that, in the case of voluntarily bodily movements, contact between mind and body would be impossible given the mind’s non-extended nature. This is because contact must be between two surfaces, but surface is a mode of body, as stated at Principles of Philosophy part II, section 15. Accordingly, the mind does not have a surface that can come into contact with the body and cause it to move. So, it seems that if mind and body are completely different, there is no intelligible explanation of voluntary bodily movement.
Although Gassendi and Elizabeth limited themselves to the problem of voluntary bodily movement, a similar problem arises for sensations, or the so-called problem of “body to mind causation.” For instance, a visual sensation of a tree is a mode of the mind alone. The cause of this mode would be explained by the motion of various imperceptible bodies causing parts of the eye to move, then movements in the optic nerve, which in turn cause various “animal spirits” to move in the brain and finally result in the sensory idea of the tree in the mind. But how can the movement of the “animal spirits,” which were thought to be very fine bodies, bring about the existence of a sensory idea when the mind is incapable of receiving modes of motion given its non-extended nature? Again, since the mind is incapable of having motion and a surface, no intelligible explanation of sensations seems possible either. Therefore, the completely different natures of mind and body seem to render their causal interaction impossible.
The consequences of this problem are very serious for Descartes, because it undermines his claim to have a clear and distinct understanding of the mind without the body. For humans do have sensations and voluntarily move some of their bodily limbs and, if Gassendi and Elizabeth are correct, this requires a surface and contact. Since the mind must have a surface and a capacity for motion, the mind must also be extended and, therefore, mind and body are not completely different. This means the “clear and distinct” ideas of mind and body, as mutually exclusive natures, must be false in order for mind-body causal interaction to occur. Hence, Descartes has not adequately established that mind and body are two really distinct substances.
5. Descartes’ Response to the Mind-Body Problem
Despite the obviousness of this problem, and the amount of attention given to it, Descartes himself never took this issue very seriously. His response to Gassendi is a telling example:
These questions presuppose amongst other things an explanation of the union between the soul and the body, which I have not yet dealt with at all. But I will say, for your benefit at least, that the whole problem contained in such questions arises simply from a supposition that is false and cannot in any way be proved, namely that, if the soul and the body are two substances whose nature is different, this prevents them from being able to act on each other (AT VII 213: CSM II 275).
So, Descartes’ response to the mind-body problem is twofold. First, Descartes contends that a response to this question presupposes an explanation of the union between the mind (or soul) and the body. Second, Descartes claims that the question itself stems from the false presupposition that two substances with completely different natures cannot act on each other. Further examination of these two points will occur in reverse order.
Descartes’ principles of causation put forward in the Third Meditation lie at the heart of this second presupposition. The relevant portion of this discussion is when Descartes argues that the less real cannot cause something that is more real, because the less real does not have enough reality to bring about something more real than itself. This principle applies on the general level of substances and modes. On this account, an infinite substance, that is, God, is the most real thing because only he requires nothing else in order to exist; created, finite substances are next most real, because they require only God’s creative and conservative activity in order to exist; and finally, modes are the least real, because they require a created substance and an infinite substance in order to exist. So, on this principle, a mode cannot cause the existence of a substance since modes are less real than finite substances. Similarly, a created, finite substance cannot cause the existence of an infinite substance. But a finite substance can cause the existence of another finite substance or a mode (since modes are less real than substances). Hence, Descartes’ point could be that the completely diverse natures of mind and body do not violate this causal principle, since both are finite substances causing modes to exist in some other finite substance. This indicates further that the “activity” of the mind on the body does not require contact and motion, thereby suggesting that mind and body do not bear a mechanistic causal relation to each other. More will be said about this below.
The first presupposition concerns an explanation of how the mind is united with the body. Descartes’ remarks about this issue are scattered across both his published works and his private correspondence. These texts indicate that Descartes did not maintain that voluntary bodily movements and sensation arise because of the causal interaction of mind and body by contact and motion. Rather, he maintains a version of the form-matter theory of soul-body union endorsed by some of his scholastic-Aristotelian predecessors and contemporaries. Although a close analysis of the texts in question cannot be conducted here, a brief summary of how this theory works for Descartes can be provided.
Before providing this summary, however, it is important to disclaim that this scholastic-Aristotelian interpretation is a minority position amongst Descartes scholars. The traditional view maintains that Descartes’ human being is composed of two substances that causally interact in a mechanistic fashion. This traditional view led some of Descartes’ successors, such as Malebranche and Leibniz (who also believed in the real distinction of mind and body), to devise metaphysical systems wherein mind and body do not causally interact despite appearances to the contrary. Other philosophers considered the mind-body problem to be insurmountable, thereby denying their real distinction: they claim that everything is either extended (as is common nowadays) or mental (as George Berkeley argued in the 18th century). Indeed, this traditional, mechanistic interpretation of Descartes is so deeply ingrained in the minds of philosophers today, that most do not even bother to argue for it. However, a notable exception is Marleen Rozemond, who argues for the incompatibility of Descartes’ metaphysics with any scholastic-Aristotelian version of mind or soul-body union. Those interested in closely examining her arguments should consult her book Descartes’s Dualism. A book arguing in favor of the scholastic-Aristotelian interpretation is entitled Descartes and the Metaphysics of Human Nature; Chapter 5 specifically addresses Rozemond’s concerns.
Two major stumbling blocks Rozemond raises for the scholastic-Aristotelian interpretation concern the mind’s status as a substantial form and the extent to which Descartes can maintain a form of the human body. However, recall that Descartes rejects substantial forms because of their final causal component. Descartes’ argument was based on the fact (as he understood it) that the scholastics were ascribing mental properties to entirely non-mental things like stones. Since the mind is an entirely mental thing, these arguments just do not apply to it. Hence, Descartes’ particular rejection of substantial forms does not necessarily imply that Descartes did not view the mind as a substantial form. Indeed, as Paul Hoffman noted:
Descartes really rejects the attempt to use the human soul as a model for explanations in the entirely physical world. This makes it possible that Descartes considered the human mind to be the only substantial form. At first glance this may seem ad hoc but it is also important to notice that rejecting the existence of substantial forms with the exception of the mind or rational soul was not uncommon amongst Descartes’ contemporaries.
Although the mind’s status as a substantial form may seem at risk because of its meager explicit textual support, Descartes suggests that the mind a “substantial form” twice in a draft of open letter to his enemy Voetius:
Yet, if the soul is recognized as merely a substantial form, while other such forms consist in the configuration and motion of parts, this very privileged status it has compared with other forms shows that its nature is quite different from theirs (AT III 503: CSMK 207-208).
Descartes then remarks “this is confirmed by the example of the soul, which is the true substantial form of man” (AT III 508: CSMK 208). Although other passages do not make this claim explicitly, they do imply (in some sense) that the mind is a substantial form. For instance, Descartes claims in a letter to Mesland dated 9 February 1645, that the soul is “substantially united” with the human body (AT IV 166: CSMK 243). This “substantial union” was a technical term amongst the scholastics denoting the union between a substantial form and matter to form a complete substance. Consequently, there is some reason for believing that the human mind is the only substantial form left standing in Descartes’ metaphysics.
Another major stumbling block recognized by Rozemond is the extent to which, if any, Descartes’ metaphysics can maintain a principle for organizing extension into a human body. This was a point of some controversy amongst the scholastics themselves. Philosophers maintaining a Thomistic position argued that the human soul is the human body’s principle of organization. While others, maintaining a basically Scotistic position, argued that some other form besides the human soul is the form of the body. This “form of corporeity” organizes matter for the sake of being a human body but does not result in a full-fledged human being. Rather it makes a body with the potential for union with the human soul. The soul then actualizes this potential resulting in a complete human being. If Descartes did hold a fundamentally scholastic theory of mind-body union, then is it more Thomistic or Scotistic? Since intellect and will are the only faculties of the mind, it does not have the faculty for organizing matter for being a human body. So, if Descartes’ theory is scholastic, it must be most in line with some version of the Scotistic theory. Rozemond argues that Descartes’ rejection of all other substantial forms (except the human mind or soul) precludes this kind of theory since he cannot appeal to the doctrine of substantial forms like the Scotists.
Although Descartes argues that bodies, in the general sense, are constituted by extension, he also maintains that species of bodies are determined by the configuration and motion of their parts. This doctrine of “configuration and motion of parts” serves the same purpose as the doctrine of substantial forms with regards to entirely physical things. But the main difference between the two is that Descartes’ doctrine does not employ final causes. Recall that substantial forms organize matter for the purpose of being a species of thing. The purpose of a human body endowed with only the form of corporeity is union with the soul. Hence, the organization of matter into a human body is an effect that is explained by the final cause or purpose of being disposed for union. But, on Descartes’ account, the explanatory order would be reversed: a human body’s disposition for union is an effect resulting from the configuration and motion of parts. So, even though Descartes does not have recourse to substantial forms, he still has recourse to the configuration of matter and to the dispositions to which it gives rise, including “all the dispositions required to preserve that union” (AT IV 166: CSMK 243). Hence, on this account, Descartes gets what he needs, namely, Descartes gets a body properly configured for potential union with the mind, but without recourse to the scholastic notion of substantial forms with their final causal component.
Another feature of this basically Scotistic position is that the soul and the body were considered incomplete substances themselves, while their union results in one, complete substance. Surely Descartes maintains that mind and body are two substances but in what sense, if any, can they be considered incomplete? Descartes answers this question in the Fourth Replies. He argues that a substance may be complete insofar as it is a substance but incomplete insofar as it is referred to some other substance together with which it forms yet some third substance. This can be applied to mind and body as follows: the mind insofar as it is a thinking thing is a complete substance, while the body insofar as it is an extended thing is a complete substance, but each taken individually is only an incomplete human being.
This account is repeated in the following excerpt from a letter to Regius dated December 1641:
For there you said that the body and the soul, in relation to the whole human being, are incomplete substances; and it follows from their being incomplete that what they constitute is a being through itself (that is, an ens per se; AT III 460: CSMK 200).
The technical sense of the term “being through itself” was intended to capture the fact that human beings do not require any other creature but only God’s concurrence to exist. Accordingly, a being through itself, or ens per se, is a substance. Also notice that the claim in the letter to Regius that two incomplete substances together constitute a being through itself is reminiscent of Descartes’ remarks in the Fourth Replies. This affinity between the two texts indicates that the union of mind and body results in one complete substance or being through itself. This just means that mind and body are the metaphysical parts (mind and body are incomplete substances in this respect) that constitute one, whole human being, which is a complete substance in its own right. Hence, a human being is not the result of two substances causally interacting by means of contact and motion, as Gassendi and Elizabeth supposed, but rather they bear a relation of act and potency that results in one, whole and complete substantial human being.
This sheds some light on why Descartes thought that an account of mind-body union would put Gassendi’s and Elizabeth’s concerns to rest: they misconceived the union of mind and body as a mechanical relation when in fact it is a relation of act and potency. This avoids Gassendi’s and Elizabeth’s version of this problem. This aversion is accomplished by the fact that modes of voluntary motion (and sensations, by extrapolation) should be ascribed to a whole human being and not to the mind or the body taken individually. This is made apparent in a 21 May 1643 letter to Elizabeth where Descartes distinguishes between various “primitive notions.” The most general are the notions of being, number, duration, and so on, which apply to all conceivable things. He then goes on to distinguish the notions of mind and body:
Then, as regards body in particular, we have only the notion of extension, which entails the notions of shape and motion; and as regards the soul on its own, we have only the notion of thought, which includes the perceptions of the intellect and the inclinations of the will (AT III 665: CSMK 218).
Here body and soul (or mind) are primitive notions and the notions of their respective modes are the notions “entailed by” or “included in” these primitives. Descartes then discusses the primitive notion of mind-body union:
Lastly, as regards the soul and the body together, we have only the notion of their union, on which depends our notion of the soul’s power to move the body, and the body’s power to act on the soul and cause its sensations and passions (AT III 665: CSMK 218).
In light of the immediately preceding lines, this indicates that voluntary bodily movements and sensations are not modes of the body alone, or the mind alone, but rather are modes of “the soul and the body together.” This is at least partially confirmed in the following lines from Principles, part I, article 48:
But we also experience within ourselves certain other things, which must not be referred either to the mind alone or to the body alone. These arises, as will be made clear in the appropriate place, from the close and intimate union of our mind with the body. This list includes, first, appetites like hunger and thirds; secondly, the emotions or passions . . . (AT VIIIA 23: CSM I 209).
These texts indicate that the mind or soul is united with the body so as to give rise to another whole complete substance composed of these two metaphysical parts. And, moreover, this composite substance now has the capacity for having modes of its own, namely, modes of voluntary bodily movement and sensation, which neither the mind nor the body can have individually. So, voluntary bodily movements are not modes of the body alone caused by the mind, nor are sensations modes of the mind alone caused by the body. Rather, both are modes of a whole and complete human being. On this account, it makes no sense to ask how the non-extended mind can come into contact with the body to cause these modes. To ask this would be to get off on the wrong foot entirely, since contact between these two completely diverse substances is not required for these modes to exist. Rather all that is necessary is for the mind to actualize the potential in a properly disposed human body to form one, whole, human being to whom is attributed modes of voluntary movement and sensation.
Although the scholastic-Aristotelian interpretation avoids the traditional causal interaction problem based on the requirements of contact and motion, it does run up against another version of that problem, namely, a problem of formal causation. This is a problem facing any scholastic-Aristotelian theory of mind or soul-body union where the soul is understood to be an immaterial substantial form. Recall that the immaterial mind or soul assubstantial form is suppose to act on a properly disposed human body in order to result in a full-fledged human being. The problem of formal causal interaction is: how can an immaterial soul assubstantial form act on the potential in a material thing? Can any sense be made of the claim that a non-extended or immaterial things acts on anything? Descartes noticed in a letter to Regius (AT III 493: CSMK 206) that the scholastics did not try to answer this question and so he and Regius need not either. The likely explanation of their silence is that the act-potency relation was considered absolutely fundamental to scholastic-Aristotelian philosophy and, therefore, it required no further explanation. So, in the end, even if Descartes’ theory is as described here, it does not evade all the causal problems associated with uniting immaterial souls or mind to their respective bodies. , However, if this proposed account is true, it helps to cast Descartes’ philosophy in a new light and to redirect the attention of scholars to the formal causal problems involved.
6. References and Further Reading
- Descartes, Rene, Ouevres de Descartes, 11 vols., eds. Charles Adam and Paul Tannery, Paris: Vrin, 1974-1989.
- This is still the standard edition of all of Descartes’ works and correspondence in their original languages. Cited in the text as AT, volume, page.
- Descartes, Rene, The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, 3 vols., trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, Dugald Murdoch and Anthony Kenny, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984-1991
- This is the standard English translation of Descartes philosophical works and correspondence. Cited in the text as CSM or CSMK, volume, page.
- Broughton, Janet and Mattern, Ruth, “Reinterpreting Descartes on the Notion of the Union of Mind and Body,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 16 (1978), 23-32.
- A reinterpretation of the notion of mind-body union in the correspondence with Elizabeth, which addresses Radner’s interpretation of it. See below.
- Garber, Daniel, “Understanding Interaction: What Descartes Should Have Told Elizabeth,” Southern Journal of Philosophy, Supp. 21 (1983), 15-32.
- Article addressing the issues of the primitive notions and how this theory should be used to explain mind-body causal interaction to Elizabeth.
- Hoffman, Paul, “The Unity of Descartes’ Man,” The Philosophical Review 95 (1986), 339-369.
- Article arguing that Descartes’ theory of mind-body union is more in line with scholastic-Aristotelian theories of soul-body union than previously supposed.
- Kenny, Anthony, Descartes: A Study of His Philosophy, New York: Random House, 1968. See especially chapters 4 and 10.
- These chapters provide classic interpretations of the real distinction between mind and body and the mind-body problem.
- Mattern, Ruth, “Descartes’ Correspondence with Elizabeth Concerning both the Union and Distinction of Mind and Body” in Descartes: Critical and Interpretive Essays, ed. Michael Hooker, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1978, 212-222.
- Short essay examining Descartes’ correspondence with Elizabeth on this issue and how it was supposed to direct her to a correct understanding of mind-body causal interaction.
- Radner, Daisie, “Descartes’ Notion of the Union of Mind and Body,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 9 (1971), 159-170.
- This is the first article in Anglo-American scholarship to address the issue of mind-body union. It addresses several texts, including the letter to Elizabeth enumerating the primitive notions.
- Rozemond, Marleen, Descartes’s Dualism, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.
- This book argues for a particular understanding of the real distinction between mind and body that would preclude Hoffman’s scholastic-Aristotelian account of their union.
- Skirry, Justin, Descartes and the Metaphysics of Human Nature, London and New York: Thoemmes-Continuum Press, 2005.
- This book takes issue with Rozemond’s account of the mind-body union through a close re-examination of fundamental features of Descartes’ metaphysics and by building on certain features of Hoffman’s account.
- Voss, Stephen, “Descartes: The End of Anthropology” in Reason, Will and Sensation, ed. John Cottingham, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.
- This essay provides a close textual analysis of Descartes’ account of the union of mind and body on the supposition that he maintained a Platonic rather than scholastic-Aristotelian theory of mind-body union.
- Williams, Bernard, Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry, Sussex: Harvester Press, 1978. See especially chapter 4.
- This is another classic account of the mind-body relation in Descartes.
- Wilson, Margaret, Descartes, London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.
- Provides classic accounts of the real distinction argument and issues concerning mind-body causal interaction.
U. S. A.
Why do so many teenage girls want to change gender? Posted April 5th 2021
In the last 10 years, there has been an extraordinary increase in teenagers seeking to transition from female to male. What’s behind it—and has the NHS been too quick to find a solution?
By Emma Hartley
It is commonly acknowledged that while biological sex is genetically determined, gender is a social construct. A human being cannot—and should not—be reduced to their biology, or indeed their genitals, because psychologically we are as much a product of the way that other people treat us as we are of our genetic inheritance. Homo sapiens are social creatures: our ability to cooperate is what gave us the evolutionary upper hand over our stronger Neanderthal cousins. Without parents, siblings, peers, colleagues, friends and lovers our idea of ourselves would remain ill-defined—we wouldn’t know who we were.
Imagine you were raised by wolves in a cave—let’s call you Mowgli—but then later met another human of the opposite sex. You would notice the physiological differences. But as to interpreting those differences, where would you start? Without being exposed to the concept of “man” or “woman”—let alone “laddish” or “girly”—you’d lack any mental map to provide the pointers to the typically “male” and “female” behaviour instilled in us by human society.
Precisely because gender is a social construct, the evolution of its boundaries and meanings will tell us something fundamental about our society. And gender-wise something really big is going on in the UK—but it’s not the big something you might think.
Transsexuality is a talking point like never before, and a glance at the figures sheds some light on why. The number of children, in particular, being referred to the Tavistock and Portman Foundation Trust’s gender identity development service (Gids)—the NHS service through which all UK candidates for a sex change under 18 are funnelled—is up from 77 in 2009 to 2,590 in 2018-9. But what’s almost as dramatic as the headline numbers are developments in who is transitioning. In November 2017, the Guardian reported that 70 per cent of referrals were female. This was a surprising statistic because only 10 years previously the overall ratio had been more like 75 per cent males seeking to be female, and indeed it is still the gender traffic in that direction that dominates the increasingly noisy, divisive and panic-inflected debate.
Recently, though, alarm bells have begun to ring among a handful of psychiatric professionals about the number of teenage girls arriving at the Tavistock’s door and the nature of their treatment. Right now a legal case is being brought by Susan Evans, a former psychiatric nurse at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, alongside a parent of an autistic female child wishing to transition to be male, arguing that children are not legally capable of consenting to a gender transition. November last year saw the launch of the Detransition Advocacy Network, a UK group numbering several hundred members. And in January, the NHS announced an independent review into puberty suppressants and cross-sex hormone treatments, to be chaired by Hilary Cass, formerly president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
But until the end of 2019, you could be forgiven for thinking that a panic about trans women using the “wrong” toilet cubicles was the biggest gender issue of the day (instead of something that could be easily solved by affording everyone the same privacy). Whenever the issue flares up politically—as when the Labour leadership candidates were asked to sign a pledge that labelled trans rights sceptics as “hate groups,” or the Scottish government proposed reforms to allow a change of legal gender without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria—it always seems to come back to loos and changing rooms. These vitriolic debates keep bubbling up—especially online.
But there is a much bigger scandal brewing than any Twitterstorm. While there have been a great many thoughtful doctors at the Tavistock, the picture is sometimes disturbing. Marcus Evans, a psychotherapist and former governor of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, resigned in February 2019, citing an institutional rush to prescribe puberty-blocking hormone treatment to children questioning their gender and who may wish to transition. “The Tavistock is behaving recklessly with these kids who are in a distressed state,” he claims. What’s especially odd about the alleged rush to prescribe rather than consider alternatives, he argues, is that this clinic’s international reputation was built on the quality of its talking therapy.
“Over the last five to 10 years there has been a complete change in the profile of the people presenting,” says Evans. “These children believe that they are in the wrong body and they are very persistent and forceful in saying that they want a solution—and that that is physical intervention. But I’ve been in psychiatry for 40 years and when people are in a distressed state they often narrow things down and fix on one thing as a solution, putting pressure on clinicians for a magic bullet.”
In psychiatry “generally,” he says, the aim is to “open things out,” and take the time to ask questions about “what is going on.” After all, “adolescence is a moving picture. We move through experimenting with different identities as our bodies change and our role in society changes. An individual has to tolerate a -certain amount of confusion and anxiety and we should be able to help with that through therapy.” But when it comes to “the Tavistock’s gender identity service,” he says, “this work has not been done… the entire area has become unnecessarily politicised.”
It is undeniable that trans people have faced discrimination and abuse from those who don’t understand their experiences. A vocal rights lobby is quick to push back against transphobia—both real and perceived. Sometimes, though, legitimate challenges tip over into intimidation.
An American academic, Lisa Littman, encountered strenuous opposition when she published an article that coined the term “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” She lost a consultancy job, though remained an assistant professor at Brown University School of Public Health. Littman identified knots of socially-awkward girls drawn together in online chat rooms who reinforced each other’s self-diagnosis of being transgender before presenting to medical professionals. She had been led there by research involving the parents of some of these children, who had mentioned that their offspring had friends who also identified as transgender. (The US is experiencing a similar shift towards female transitioners, as are Finland, Canada and the Netherlands among others.) Along with Marcus Evans, Littman has pointed to a high incidence of autism and eating disorders among the same patients who present as trans. That observation raises some obvious questions about the narrowness of an approach that fixates on hormonal treatment for gender dysphoria.
The Tavistock pushes back against accusations that it is too quick to assume its patients are transgender and to provide hormones. “Our work with young people is not to affirm or deny,” they told me. “We respect children and young people’s sense of themselves and our assessment process considers gender identity development within the context of a psychological, biological, developmental and social framework, meaning that it is designed to give assessors a broad picture of the young person’s past and current gender identification.” Their work, they went on, is “cautious” and “considered” and whatever clinical interventions they do undertake are “laid out in nationally-set service specifications.” Hormone blockers are prescribed. But surgery cannot be performed until the age of 18.
Anna Hutchinson, who worked at the Tavistock until 2017 as a clinical psychologist and who is now in private practice, isn’t convinced. She believes there is an uncritical “affirmation” of gender dysphoria and the Tavistock is not as “cautious” as it should be. “The young people are making sense of themselves in the best way they can,” she tells me. “They often aren’t aware of anything other than the affirmative approach for managing gender dysphoria.” If they heard “different points of view,” they might be better placed to make “balanced and informed decisions about what they need,” she suggests. She describes a rush to treat: “Affirmation involves a quick assessment and then you get them into the medical system, on to hormone blockers if this is age appropriate. The next step is cross-sex hormones with their irreversible effects. Nearly 100 per cent make that journey once they start on the blockers.”
Hutchinson suggested that I look at an advisory organisation called the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), alleging that its “best-practice” guidelines in this field, which have been adhered to internationally and spread through professional development courses for practitioners, have often been activist-led rather than evidence-led. Critics charge that senior members of WPATH have been behaving as advocates for transsexuality, rather than dispassionate advisers on mental health. Indeed, such advocacy is included in WPATH’s mission statement.
The WPATH guidelines say that “children as young as two may show features that could indicate gender dysphoria. They may… prefer clothes, toys and games that are commonly associated with the other sex and may prefer playing with other-sex peers.” A very distinct perspective is on show here: one that venerates individual feelings of identity, and yet also regards the social categories of gender with such solemnity that a girl toddler’s fondness for toy tractors is now seen as a marker of dysphoria. There is little room for interrogating either the feelings or the categories: it’s the biology that needs to change.
The guidelines add: “Treatment aimed at trying to change a person’s gender identity and expression to become more congruent with sex assigned at birth has been attempted in the past without success… Such treatment is no longer considered ethical.” While the WPATH guidelines counsel against pathologising gender dysphoria, these guidelines arguably have the effect of pathologising the natal sex of the person in question.
WPATH has the level of influence that it does, it has been suggested to me, because until the sudden increase in numbers of people questioning their gender no one paid much attention. WPATH began as the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association in 1979, when there might only have been a few hundred patients a year presenting in the UK and these tended to be adult males. Each could be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Given the vast and rapid increase in the number of people wanting to change gender, there is bound to be a danger that discretion goes out of the window, and “guidelines” become rigid rules. (WPATH did not respond to questions.)
“The WPATH guidelines may have had the effect of de-skilling professionals who have been trained to provide therapy,” says Hutchinson, adding that in Gids the clinic simply “can’t” provide the traditional therapy for which the Tavistock is known, and which medics from across the country might expect when they refer patients here.
Hutchinson points to Gids’s own service specification (which doesn’t include talking therapy as a long-term treatment option) and a memorandum about conversion therapy published by the UK Council for Psychotherapy in 2017. Along with the influence of WPATH it is, I think, the missing piece of the jigsaw that reveals how the “affirmation” approach to gender reassignment has become the norm in the UK.
“Different issues may have been conflated, despite the best of intentions,” explains Hutchinson. She argues that a “false equivalence” has been drawn between pro-active conversion therapy for sexuality, where clinicians attempt to alter patients’ sexual responses, and talking people into becoming more comfortable with their bodies. Non-medical therapy for people with gender dysphoria has come to be seen as effectively trying to argue them out of identifying as transgender, as people were once convinced that they shouldn’t be gay. But the distinction between medical acts and medical omissions has been lost somewhere here, a serious matter in a profession whose traditional starting point has been “First, do no harm.” (The Tavistock responds: “We operate with no preconceptions and outcomes for any given young person.”)
Traditional ideas about the physician assessing the patient in the round also seem at risk of being forgotten. “We generally don’t talk about the relevance of the incredibly high incidence of autism spectrum disorder among these new, young, female patients,” says Hutchinson. “Autism often also means black-and-white thinking and struggling with the onset of puberty, so we have to ask the question ‘can this simply be a coincidence?’” And can it be a coincidence, either, that the stampede to transition is so concentrated among girls and young women?
An instructive parallel case can be found in Eastern Europe. In the former Soviet bloc, and especially in 1980s Poland, more women than men requested sex changes. “Polish sexologists knew about this difference [with the west] and were startled by it,” said Ludmila Janion of Warsaw University, who recently completed a PhD on the subject.
Why was this? The experts I spoke to while researching a book in the 2000s suggested that the reverse statistics might have something to do with it being especially awful to be a female under Communism, propelling some to jump immediately from questioning their sexuality—“I’m not sure I’m straight”—to the conclusion: “I must be a man.”
Current figures are hard to come by in capitalist Poland, but a 3:1 ratio of women becoming men as against men becoming women has been suggested to me. So perhaps it was actually less about Communism, than more ingrained cultural issues. Anna Kłonkowska, a Polish academic living in New York, suggests interrogating the very words that Eastern Europeans use: “Slavic languages are highly gendered,” she explained. “There is no distinction possible within them between sex and gender: no separate words for these things. It is linguistically assumed that your anatomical features are the same as your perceived gender. It is not only the case with verbs (as in French) but also nouns and adjectives, and when you speak you express your gender in every sentence as well as the gender of the person to whom you are speaking.” Additionally, said Kłonkowska, “Cultural elevation of masculinity is built into the language: -transitioning female to male is seen as socially elevating whereas transitioning male to female is degrading.”
All of this makes conversation uncomfortable to anyone who is not quite sure where they fit in. Female to male trans people have told Kłonkowska that “their biggest concern” is “not really about the bodily alterations” but “merely being treated as male.” Unfortunately, in Poland, there is no way to have the one without the other. “Judges generally want to see some physical changes before they will allow the legal one. People say that they feel forced to take hormones so that a judge will see a man or a woman even though they are not unhappy with their existing bodies. Then afterwards they would give up taking the hormones.”
Whether the root cause is language, the legacy of Communism or patriarchal oppression, this is a story that needs to be understood at the level of society, not just the individual psyche. There is little doubt—as Janion argues—that there was traditionally “no cultural space for butch (ie more masculine) lesbians.” Transsexuality was perceived by the sexologists as a rare and difficult—but curable—illness. In this case it might have constituted a relatively attractive identity. After all, it turned a lesbian living with another woman into a success. Sexologists saw it as restoring “normal” heterosexuality. A similar trend can be seen in Iran, where gender reassignment surgery is encouraged for gay men who would otherwise be viciously persecuted.
“Whether someone will identify as trans or will be diagnosed as trans,” Janion argues, “will depend on what the other viable options are.” At which point it seems worth asking what, given the similar trend emerging in the UK and other western societies, might have changed to make so many youngsters born female feel so alienated in their own bodies?
A video of the launch of the recently constituted Detransition Advocacy Network sheds especially interesting light here on some young women’s struggles. The panel comprised of five women between 20 and 23 years old, plus the organiser, Charlie Evans, 28. All six are lesbians whose youthful feelings of self-loathing, self-disgust and social dislocation led them to make a decision to transition to male that they later came to regret, after varying degrees of hormone and surgical treatment.
Evans, in common with her panel-mates, now locates the source of her gender dysphoria as social (rather than personal)—and in particular in misogyny towards “masculine” women and lesbians. All six participants are now on better terms with their own lesbianism. “Gender dysphoria is the opposite of body positivity,” one of them says. But it was a harrowing and physically disruptive journey to have taken at such a young age. (All began their transition during puberty some time ago, and therefore have not been a part of the current controversy surrounding puberty-blocker drugs.) One man in the audience, audibly distressed at what he was hearing, asks: “How is it possible that you have had no one in your lives to tell you that it was OK just to be yourselves?”
There are broader questions here for UK society in 2020, and about its attitude to girls. It is hard not to feel that social media and porn have recently been conspiring to create a rigid and ultra “femme” idea of what a beautiful woman should look like. Whereas once Jamie Lee Curtis, with her short hair and athletic build, was considered a sex symbol in Hollywood, these days the Kardashians’ femininity can feel almost as homogenised as it is commoditised. And its shallow markers—nails, lashes, bling—frequently blur the distinction between the world’s most desirable women and drag queens. Keeping up with the requirements of womanhood, as they are understood in these times, imposes a time-sapping burden, and all those (most of us) who are not prepared to devote a large portion of our day to our appearance end up feeling alienated. Detransitioners might well be merely exposing the tip of an iceberg of social-media generated misery.
Phoebe Jones (not her real name) is a lesbian attracted to masculine women who mourns the shrinking of her dating pool. “I’ve always tended towards dating masculine-of-centre women,” she tells me, “I’ve never seen these women as having less of a claim on womanhood than I do… Their self-acceptance was important to me as it allowed me to celebrate them.”
The trappings of femininity can be oppressive.
But it’s not always easy. One lesbian friend was raped by a classmate when she came out. Another “was cripplingly insecure in clothes but confident naked. I gently pointed out to her that her body wasn’t the problem. She breast-bound and tentatively used gender neutral pronouns. We became good friends. Now she sees herself as a woman and a lesbian and still looks like a boy. I get the feeling she is comfortable being desired as such these days, and desiring too.”
This success story speaks of a relatively “masculine” woman learning to find her psychological comfort publicly and privately—something far too rarely reflected in the media in the era of Love Island. Such happy negotiations of identity remain largely unacknowledged—to the detriment of others who are still stuck with the anguish that preceded the happy resolution.
“Increasingly on dating apps,” explains Jones, “masculine lesbians use they/them pronouns… If anything, it almost seems more common now than just being a proudly butch lesbian, particularly in younger women.”
Jones is at pains to point out that she does not have a problem with people transitioning, “if they are old enough and have had appropriate therapeutic support. But when it comes to adolescent girls wanting to transition, I find it very sad… I had terrible mental health as a teenager and if the same kind of agonising and reckless drive towards destruction and away from discomfort is shared by any of these girls, I can’t help but mourn the trend to assist them in taking this drive to the logical extreme rather than helping them learn to live with themselves. I mean, to help them learn to cope with their internal contradictions for at least long enough that a decision to transition is an adult, reflective and thoughtful decision.”
Many outside and indeed within the UK’s Gids service fear that, far from freeing people from the constraints of “being in the wrong body,” over the last 10 years the Tavistock has—with the best of intentions—been giving effect to some of society’s unkindest (if internalised) prejudices. What a tragedy it would be, if in trying to learn from the historic misstep of gay conversion therapy, we are allowing a rushed regime of transitioning young people that will one day be remembered in an equally controversial way. History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
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The following post will only make sense if read in conjunction with posts on About R.J Cook. The missing dynamic here is the police, which the NHS bodies refuse to admit or explain. This is the draft of a letter circulated to a number of lawyers for the purpose of staying within Statute of Limitations as all relevant public bodies refuse to explain anything, other than to label me as paranoid, ultimately bound for death by misadventure, hospitalisation, suicide or jail.
Ramsay, the psychiatrist ( sic ) noted in his report that if I saw all of the official records held on me, then I would be ‘upset.’ Fancy telling that to a person you have diagnosed as paranoid !The following was addressed to a specific lawyer. Obviously when they inquired they were told that I am subject to an ongoing police investigation and dangerous. R.J Cook December 4th 2020
“‘Thanks for getting back to me and I apologise for the delay in replying. I have given an outline of my situation below, as briefly as possible. More details and documents are available, if you feel you can help and proceed. My health is getting worse as a result of all that has happened to me. I thank you for your kind attention.
Summary of case involving Roberta Jane Cook
In 2016, I made an appointment at my local surgery with Dr Baines Clark, of Norden House Surgery, reference the possibility of me being transgendered. That surgery is Norden House Avenue Road Winslow, Bucks MK18. She referred me to Dr C.R Ramsay, a consultant pyschiatrist at Aylesbury’s Whiteleaf Centre. specialising in geriatric mental health care. He confrmed that I was in good physical and mental health – I have his report from 2016 confirming that I am suffering from no known mental illness . Ramsay concluded that I was a suitable candidate for the GIC and their services.
I then attended the GIC Clinic, had various assessments and consultations, but when it came to medication there were.several communications made known to me where Dr Roger Dickson of Norden House raised questions about my mental health and told them that my alleged heavy drinking meant my liver would struggle with hormone treatment. I was copied in to Dickson’s correspondence by Leighton Seal of the GIC who thanked Dickson for ‘five interesting letters.’
Dickson’s surgery had also ignored my prostate concerns since 2003 and my seriously raised free testosterone and abnormal Sex Hormone Binding Globulin ( SHBG ) levels on the basis that this was probabaly linked to alcohol abuse. By the way, I am not a heavy drinker and spent years working as an HGV driver until lockdown.).’This correspondence, from Dickson to Leighton Sea,l came one year after I had changed my name and conformed to their dress and behaviour requirements. I was offered no explanation or evidence.
As a matter of fact, taking anti androgens and alcohol is a serious health risk, so if I was a ‘drinker’ they were negligent at the GIC or suspected Dickson of lying. I am hypothyroid so regular liver and kidney function blood checks were routine for me. Dickson and his colleagues had regfularly signed me off on medicals as fit to drive HGVs, noting that I was not an alcoholic or mentally ill.
Dr Leighton Seal of the GIC overruled Norden House. Hormones, anti androgens and injections effectively chemically castrating me were prescribed. By February 2018, I was overdue to be listed for GRS ( Gender Reassignment Surgery ).
So, at my February 2018 meeting with Dr Kirpal Sahota of the GIC , Dr Sahota announced, apparently out of the blue, that my GRS was conditional on me taking anti psychotic drugs. She also said that I needed sessions with a psychiatrist from the Whiteleaf Centre. She had a male colleague present with a view to my long term therapy under this dangerous medication. Had the GIC et al done their job properly, and this not being connected with Norden House misconduct, then this medication with reasons would have been mentioned to me at the beginning – not after high risk hormone and anti androgen treatment. As it was, hormones, anti androgens, injections, facial hair removal and conforming to their dress code, my identity had been overwhelmed and myself put at risk from hate crime and social ostracism. In this context, I was suddenly expected to take anti psychotics, function and survive.
The situation is now compounded by Covid 19 lockdown, my son and I facing homelessness because of what has been done to me. One does not have to be mad to commit suicide – they know that. My ex wife admitted her habit of hitting me, and there was much worse, leading me to attempt hanging from a door handle in March 2007. You need to know this as my medical records appear to be subject to edit and direction. My ex wife was a senior employee of Dr Roger Dickson & Co – my GP practice. I also spent several years working there as a handyman, attending their social functions. My work there included extending the staff car park using a large digger, plumbing and re roofing an outbuilding.
As a psychology post grad, I had knowledge of anti psychotics, how they work, purpose and side effects. I was simply told that they would make me better without being told why they suddenly thought I was seriously mentally ill. Offering a path to over due GRS, Dr Sahota’s words were. ‘We would like you to take the medication, it will make you feel better and then we can deal with the GRS. Is that a deal ?’ I said no, also refusing the group therapy sessions and Whiteleaf psychiatric consultations. By this time my body was physically altered, along with hormone effects on my mental state. My genitals have since wasted away to the point where GRS would be very difficult if at all possible to any good worth while effect. Still Norden House, Whiteleaf and the GIC refuse to explain anything relating to me and gender reassignement..
The same month in 2018, prior to Ramsay’s visits., Sahota wrote to my GP, copying me in to a letter she had sent to my GP, informing him that I had secure female identity and was keen to proceed fo GRS. The letter approved further castration injections with the purpose of reducing my testosterone level to the approved level for surgery. Curiously, a few days later, psychiatrist, Dr C.R Ramsay arrived unannouced, along with a medical student and mental health nurse. I had just returned from a 13 hour HGV – which Ramsay turned into alcoholism, along with calling my efforts to defend myself ‘pressured speech’ which was a sign of a paranoid personality disorder – his ultimate and damning diagnosis..
I was warned that hospital was a possibility, so would best invite them in if I wanted a chance to avoid that. Two further afternnon sessions followed, both times after I had been at work – my usual work start times were between 0100 and 0200 hours. This is relevant because it was my custom to sip a glass of wine after work and prior to bed before my next shift
I protested against Ramsay’s intrusions.
After my third consultation, and well over a month later Ramsay phoned to ask me if I would accept a second opinion because GIC ‘wanted something stronger’ than he had written about me. I was working at the time, but he persisted. I told him that it was up to him to make that decision. I later discovered that Ramsay had already informed the GIC that I had refused a second opinion before he even asked me. Ramsay concluded that I have abnormal psychology as well as paranoia and recommended a multi agency approach to monitoring me, but ‘hospital is not needed yet;’ He also concluded that I am anti social, secretive and cannot relate to others or sustain relationships. That was 2 years ago.
Neither Norden House. Whiteleaf or GIC have so far responded to the questions raised here. Obviously I have thought of suicide in this impossible situation. Paranoia is ‘abnormal suspicion’, schizophrenia is normally taken as multiple personality. I have had no empirically based explanation as to why they suggest all of this applies to me, and if it does then why were these agencies so careless and incompetent as to not notice before February 2018 and when GRS should have been imminent. If they had this view before then, why not act and why not eplain themselves to myself or my son ?
Several months ago Dr Kimble, of Norden House, wrote informing me that he had written to ask the GIC for an update on my status with them. I wrote thanking him, noting it would be interesting as to their reply, regarding what they did or didn’t say. Not surprsingly, I have not been told anything. .
So, in conclusion, if there is any truth in allegations and mental health diagnoses , then the key question is why on earth was I ever recommended for such serious gender re assignment treatment, lasting for 2 years, what were the reasons, the details of diagnosis etc ?. If they do not stick by their allegations and diagnosis, why not because it obviously implicates them in misconduct and misdiagnosis otherwise ? They were asking me at the GIC to take take very dangerous anti psychotics. as part of a bargain for sex change surgery ? That is serious, demanding serious explanation, the details should be provided on paper, also explaining all parties involved and why it took so long. They have refused to do that by ignoring all of my requests.
So the situation pertains and worsens. The effect on my physical and mental health has been extreme, my alarm and distress is ongoing – worsening in fact. The physical and psychologcal damage is dreadful and on going. leaving me in gender limbo, impotent and infertile. There is clear evidence of prejudice, malpractice, medical neglect, questionable diagnosis and practice – with external influence and malice that needs to be verified and explained to me in writing..I can answer any questions arising from what the various involved parties may offer in their defence. All concerned have had ample opportunity to explain themselves to me. I think their silence says a lot about them.
Yours Sincerely R.J Cook “